If you point to the Cincinnati Bengals red zone struggles, you begin disseminating the team's overall issues on offense into a wider context; indirectly (or directly depending on how you view it) with the team's lack of third down success, ranked dead last in the league converting only 23.7% for first downs. So the fact the the Bengals are converting nine of 38 of their third downs this season, including two for their last 21, is a huge reason for stalled drives while inside the red zone and even crossing the especially irrelevant 20-yard line (the only different from the red zone and not red zone is one yard).
Through three games this year, the Bengals have entered the red zone eight times. And of those eight times, they've scored three touchdowns and five field goals; two touchdowns came against the Denver Broncos. Additionally the Bengals have crossed the 30-yard line 10 times, scoring points (field goals) on each possession, stalled by the team's league-worst third down conversation rate.
After the team's 13-8 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Marvin Lewis said that "the biggest thing today with the loss was third downs offensively."
We are not making enough conversions and that’s making a huge difference in the game. We were able to control some field position in the first half, but in the third and fourth quarters, we are not converting the third downs or converting in the Red Zone, and we are not coming away with touchdowns.
These things, we're sure, will come with time and opportunities.
At the same time field goals over touchdowns, as one obviously will note, isn't getting it down from a game perspective. Jermaine Gresham, who took the loss as hard as anyone on the team, missed two blocks that stalled Cincinnati's opening drive into a converted field goal. After Jonathan Fanene recovered a fourth-quarter fumble and after Cedric Benson picked up 10 yards on first down, Cincinnati's drive stalled again inside the red zone.
With 9:59 remaining in the game, Benson took the handoff on first-and-ten from the 49ers six-yard line. Safety Madieu Williams shot into the running lane, neutralizing fullback Chris Pressley and allowing linebacker NaVorro Bowman free reign to tackle Benson at the point of attack; the 49ers had more defensive players on that side than blockers. On second down Dalton faked the handoff and rolled out right, throwing a desperately urgent pass to Gresham because the play-fake did nothing to the blitzing Ahmad Brooks. Then on the next play, Dalton threw a floater towards the back left pylon, but cornerback Shawntae Spencer impeded Jerome Simpson's route to the ball.